Monday, June 11, 2012

My 13 year old has been causing problems & I don't know what to do!

Dear Kay,

My 13 has been causing us problems lately and we just don't know what to do. I have her My Space password of which she does not know. A few weeks ago I was reading some of her emails and she was bragging about cutting herself. I confronted her and didn't let her know how I found out. I asked to see where and with some hesitation she showed me. I wouldn't really call them cuts. They are more like scratches. She had been using a thumb tack. Then she came home with dry ice burns on her arm. The were very deep and scarred. She told some off the wall story that I believed. But later confronted her and she did do it on purpose because she thought it was cool. I threatened to send her to a therapist if I found any more wounds on her body.

She thankfully has not done it again for a couple months. Last weekend she called us because she and 2 friends were getting in trouble by the cops for playing on the railroad tracks while the crossing guard arms where down and flashing with the train close by. She 1st lied and said that the other 2 where on the tracks and she was watching them. I have a friend who saw the whole thing so I know what really happened. I gave her a 2nd chance to tell the truth and she stuck with her lie. We grounded her and took her cell phone for a week. Then I was on her My Space today and she is bragging about getting in trouble with the cops, getting caught cutting, burning herself and might have to go to boot camp if she screws up again. She bragged about this to several other people on My Space.

I don't understand the bragging. She gets good grades and is in sports. I can't understand what is with thinking it is so cool to get into trouble. I am afraid this is just the beginning. She is an only child who has both parents still together.

Dear Desiree:

Well I am not sure why a parent would "threaten" a child whose behavior is concerning them, with seeing a therapist. What did you really expect to accomplish with a threat like that?

I think (from what you have reported here) that your daughter has gotten the idea that getting into trouble is somehow "cool." Teenagers have 2 developmental tasks to accomplish during their teenage years. The first is to separate from their parents and become independent adults. The second is too socialize with, first, the same sex and then with the opposite sex. Which they often practice to the extent their parents are annoyed. While they want to be different from their parents generation unfortunately the want to be the same as their peers to fit in and this gets confusing both for them and for their parents.

You state that she gets good grades and is in sports. Sometimes good kids just get tired of being good all the time. She seems to be trying to fit in and at the same time let loose. She is just choosing methods which are scary and very concerning to you. Possibly there is something going on at school that she doesn't know how to handle and is not wanting to tell anyone. Hidden Agression in Girls in School

As all parents we are susceptible to lecturing our children when they act out. We somehow manage to make all the wrong choices ourselves when our children are making wrong choices. When they act out we need to listen MORE not less. We need to truly listen and hear what they have to say and take it at face value. Teens will often tell you why they are doing what they are doing when you ask them. Have you asked her why? Then listen when she very quiet, let the silence build and she will begin to open up. How to Talk so Teens will Listen!

If you are still concerned please get to a therapist. Take action before she accidentally hurts herself. Don't ever threaten to take someone to a therapist. This is not a discipline tool and only indicates that a state of denial exists. If there is enough of a problem that a threat of a visit to a therapist is a topic then it needs to be an action.


M Kay Keller

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